Teaching philosophy to children?

A necessary existential shock

Children should not be taught philosophy.
Because we must already acquire certainties before questioning them.
Because it is necessary to build a core identity, to define a personality, before fleshing it out and extending it to all reality.
Because we must discover, at some point, that the assurance we have built for ourselves is wrong. The existential shock is the pivotal moment of philosophical life. Between the ‘how’ and the ‘why’. An initiatory test that occurs at a different age for everyone.

Faced with the incessant ‘why’ of children, our answers fall into the void because they do not yet have a sufficient amount of ‘how’. And we actually answer with ‘hows’. To thicken the bottom of the child’s world. Waiting until it has reached sufficient density for the child to grasp the essential, radical leap of the ‘why’. Let her be struck by it!

The New World

Discover ways of seeing that we could not imagine until then. The philosophical shock is the parachuting of humility, the discovery of the invisible limits of one’s knowledge. A new world! You have to think you know everything to discover that you know nothing. But the early teaching of philosophy skips or softens this stage, reinforces the idea that through the study of the great philosophers one can discover all epistemic ways. It inculcates an invulnerability of judgment on one’s own knowledge. Thick and dumb shell, well hidden behind the apparent eclecticism, the open-mindedness, the capacity for analysis never faulted. The world of ideas becomes immeasurable for the philosopher, when it is not.

Philosophers appear, as such, cloned. And even more, young philosophers. They spot themselves instantly, a good indication of a set of neighboring characteristics. They form a philosophical corpus resembling the scientific corpus. Consensus on the way of being, scientific or philosopher. The way of doing science is clearly an ontological convergence, a necessary mimicry of upward looks. But to do philosophy it is the opposite. Each individual is destined to practice it in her own way.

A vessel of life overflowing

Would allowing this diversity mean implanting philosophy in the mind early? Let us not believe that making the diversity of thinkers of the past heard will create diversity in young minds. On the contrary, they are encircled in a corset all the more strict because it is loose, invisible. It tends to make believe that everything has been thought out. That every novelty necessarily has roots in old books. That you have to have read them to say less nonsense. Certainly. But how to know what is stupidity without having pronounced it? How to refocus the truth without having fleshed out your own cloud of errors?

We need a childhood full of nonsense to build the firm ground that will crush them. Childhood needs safeguards, not precautions. Nor solutions. Especially not complex solutions parachuted into a mind that is not. Philosophy is an autopoietic development; it cannot be learned. Development takes off at the stupidity too much, at the ‘why’ that has become unbearable. It is less a development than an overflow.

Like what

To overflow you must have already filled your mind. One does not adhere to philosophy to live different things, one becomes a philosopher because one has experienced many different things. Maturation and not initiation. Let us not hastily mature young minds, at the risk of turning them into young old minds. Humanity is already crumbling under the old.

Let us live as philosophers, but let us not teach others to live like this. Too bad if example is not enough. That’s true diversity.


Leave a Comment